Solidarity 563, 16 September 2020

Johnson heads for disaster Brexit

Brexit is destructive. It means higher borders between countries, and a drive by the British government to slip down from EU-agreed social standards to what will suit getting a trade deal with the USA. That’s true for any Brexit, and even more true for the “no deal” Brexit the Tories are edging towards. Also, the moment of Brexit is bound to bring turmoil and dislocation. Even if you think that will be passing, and worth it in the long run, those will be complications which should be avoided when trying to devise virus-control policies in the depths of winter. Since the Tories have a large...

Giant Belarus potash mine joins strikes

The slogans for the massive demonstrations on 13 September across Belarus, including one of 100,000 in Minsk, included “We won’t let him [neo-Stalinist president Alexander Lukashenko] sell the country”. Police attacked demonstrators, and even the official government figure said 774 had been arrested. Incidents caught on camera show that the police are now, for the first time, willing to openly use violence against female protesters – but also women fighting back successfully. The protests are not fading. Strikes have also continued to spread. The workers’ committee at the huge Beluruskali...

David Graeber's anarchism and the Occupy movement

The news that David Graeber had died so young, at only 59, was shocking and saddening. He had one of those inherently lively, energetic personalities that seems to contradict the concept of death itself. He earned respect as one of the few modern anarchist thinkers who tried to really apply anarchism systematically as a total worldview: anarchist principles informed his anthropological and historical research, his economics, and his interventions into real world politics. Graeber’s anthropological work is fascinating and valuable; his major book, Debt, is thought-provoking, though basically...

The case for Paul Holmes

As we approach close of nominations (25 September) in the election for a new general secretary for the big public services union Unison, Paul Holmes’ campaign is picking up momentum. He has reached the threshold to make it onto the ballot paper, with far more than the 25 branch nominations required. He has also been nominated by the Local Government Service Group, the largest service group in the Union. This is the first time a rank and file candidate has got the nomination of the Service Group. The two unelected Assistant General Secretaries, Roger McKenzie and Christina McAnea, have both got...

Manctopia? Remaking Manchester for capital

The population of city centre Manchester is set to double in the next five years. 105 complexes of flats are planned. Already tower blocks, usually of little architectural merit, are being built on any available land regardless of the effects on the local environment. Where the land is not free, historic buildings are often demolished or left to rot until they become impossible to save. Until the 1990s, few people lived in the city centre. Now it is becoming “Manc-hattan”. A number of traditionally working-class areas on the fringes of the city centre are being redeveloped as part of a plan to...

Free Osime Brown: stop his deportation, cancel his conviction!

Without urgent action, Osime Brown, an innocent 21 year old black learning-disabled man will be moved to a detention centre on the 7th October, awaiting deportation to Jamaica. This is a country he left aged 4 where he has no friends, family or support in. Osime's situation is a grim example of the racist and ableist nature of the British immigration and policing systems. We must urgently stop Osime's deportation, cancel his conviction, and fight to overthrow the brutality that puts anyone in this situation. You can read more about the case here. The campaign are asking all of its supporters...

Should we still protest?

In Solidarity 562 we carried an article clarifying the law around protest. Despite the threats the police made to organisers of a 5 September trans rights protest (which led to it being cancelled), protesting was still legal. Then on 9 September Boris Johnson announced that further restrictions would be made so that no more than six people are allowed to gather socially. The change came into force on Monday 14 September. At the time of the announcement NHS campaigners were busy organising protests for 12 September, and were reassured that the new changes would not have taken effect by then...

Scottish Labour: mobilise to push back

The campaign by the right wing of the Scottish Labour Party to oust Richard Leonard as leader, which began on the day he was elected in late 2017, reached a climax on 12 September with the tabling of a “no confidence” motion for an Executive Committee meeting. Signatories to the motion included Suzan King and James Adams, “representatives” of CLPs in Glasgow and Central Scotland. They had no mandate from members to have signed it and had made no attempt to obtain one. Other signatories to the motion who had no mandate and had made no attempt to obtain one included Jacqueline Martin (USDAW)...

Making equality more than a buzzword

In recent months I have become increasingly aware of the lack of diversity in my workplace, a Network Rail office in London. My suspicions about Network Rail were confirmed when I read in its 2019 Ethnicity Pay Gap Report that only 8.6% of its workforce is from a black or ethnic minority background compared to the national BAME population of 13%. According to the report, the lowest proportion of BAME workers is in the Operations and Maintenance section, where the overwhelming majority of Network Rail’s employees work. Those are the people who go out fixing the tracks. BAME workers make up over...

Shift in Tower Hamlets

John Biggs, mayor of the Labour council in Tower Hamlets, east London, has at last agreed to talk directly with the public services union Unison about his “Tower Rewards” plan to cut terms and conditions. He will meet Unison Regional Secretary Maggie Ferncombe, other officials, and branch representatives. This move follows nine days of strikes by Tower Hamlets Unison in July and August in response to the imposition of “Tower Rewards”. Unison branch secretary John McLoughlin says: “If management were genuine in their claim that Tower Rewards was not in part about making it easier to make staff...

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